Wednesday, March 8, 2017

3/8/1968: The Fillmore East opened

Posted 3/8/2017.

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The Fillmore East opened its doors on March 8, 1968. The space on Second Avenue near East 6th Street in the Manhattan borough of New York City, was built in 1925 as the Commodore Theatre, a showcase for vaudeville and film, which seated 2830. BB It later became the Loews Commodore movie theater and then the Village Theatre before legendary concert promoter Bill Graham took over in 1968 and launched it as a companion to his Fillmore Auditorium and its successor, the Fillmore West in San Francisco. WK

The venue, which became known as “The Church of Rock and Roll,” hosted two-show, triple-bill concerts several nights a week. WK Graham was all about the fan experience, printing “ornate, hand-rendered posters…to announce gigs;” commissioning the Joshua Light Show to provide “lavish psychedelic visuals;” and equipping the venue with a “35,000-watt, 26 speaker sound system custom designed by Bill Hanley.” RS

The Allman Brothers Band “Whipping Post” – live at the Fillmore East

Janis Joplin, performed the first show with her band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Led Zeppelin played in early 1969 as an opening act for Iron Butterfly. The Allman Brothers Band, whose legendary At Fillmore East was recorded at the venue, performed there so often some christened them Bill Graham’s house band. Jimi Hendrix’s New Year’s Day 1970 performance was released as Band of Gypsys and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street album was also a Fillmore concert event. Other acts to perform there included the Band, Chuck Berry, Joe Cocker, Derek and the Dominos, Fats Domino, the Doors, the Grateful Dead (43 shows), Jefferson Airplane, Elton John, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, the Kinks, Taj Mahal, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Santana, Sly & the Family Stone, Ike & Tina Turner, the Who, and Frank Zappa with the Mothers of Invention.

“After arguably the most influential three years in the history of rock n roll,” BB hosted its last show – an event headlined by none other than the Allman Brothers Band – on June 27, 1971. Graham had tired of competing with bigger venues like Madison Square Garden and the “borderline cost-prohibitive” asking prices for acts he did book. RS While its time was short lived, the Fillmore East “left proverbial footprints large enough to rival those of Radio City and the Beacon.” BB As Rolling Stone said, “few venues in rock history can match the hallowed legacy of the Fillmore East.” RS



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